Throughout decades of church and para-church involvement, Anne and I have been able to meet and serve alongside many Christian leaders. These women and men love God and are passionate about investing in others. If you are a Christian leader, THANK YOU for your commitment to love and serve people; and to advance God’s kingdom.
My desire in writing this post is to invite Christian leaders to invest some time and prayer reviewing marriage. Truth-be-told, the marriage problems and divorce statistics within churches and para-church ministries are discouraging. Every week we meet with Christian husbands and wives (many who are leaders) whose marriages are in deep weeds. We remind them that the Bible says that “every marriage will experience trouble” (1 Corinthians 7:28b). We encourage couples to resist any shame that is often connected to marriage troubles. And with God as the main character in a couple’s story, we challenge couples to view marriage troubles as opportunities rather than obstacles.
Personally, having been in full-time church and para-church staff positions, I understand some of the unique challenges in Christian leadership. And sadly, my experience is often leaders’ marriages (and families) are under inordinate amounts of stress and unrealistic expectations. Certainly it is a top priority for Christian leaders to “”seek first the kingdom of God.” However, I believe an important, and often overlooked, part of advancing God’s kingdom is to make marriage a high priority.
Remember, in the beginning … when God created humankind, He created a man and a woman. And He commanded them to “become one flesh” and reproduce—to expand community. Healthy marriages positively impact healthy families, and healthy families positively impact healthy churches and ministries. Marriage has amazing potential to expand community—and to advance God’s kingdom.
If you are a married Christian leader, I would like to offer for your consideration a number of questions about your marriage?
Do you regularly pray for your marriage? In what specific ways are you loving, serving, and celebrating your spouse? Are you whole heartedly—emotionally, physically, sexually—living out the exclusivity and permanence, the “until death do us part” components within marriage covenant? Are you passionately living out the miracle of “two becoming one” and shamelessly walking out your marriage—“naked without shame”? If so, in what ways?
Take a few moments and invite the Holy Spirit to help you honestly evaluate your marriage. How is your marriage doing—really doing? How would your spouse say you are doing—really doing? How are you investing in ongoing personal growth, counsel, and healing? Are you involved in any sinful, addictive, or destructive behaviors that negatively affect your marriage? Does anyone know about these struggles—if so who? Does your marriage include regular tune-ups with trained marriage counselors? Are there people who know what is really going on in your heart, and in the heart of your marriage—if so, who?
As a Christian leader, can I ask you some additional questions?
How would you describe the “MARRIAGE-CULTURE” in your church/ministry? Do you regularly teach, train and equip your community of faith about marriage, covenant, intimacy, and sexuality? Do you preach marriage sermons that include the topics of equality, headship, submission, authority, and God’s original marriage design? Do you make it a high priority to invest into your leaders’ and members’ marriages—in what specific ways? Remember, both married and singles benefit from training on these topics.
Do you equip your shepherds and sheep to be able to take moral stands on marriage issues in loving and biblical ways? For example, when five Supreme Court justices decided to change orthodox/traditional marriage laws, did you walk your leaders and members through that major cultural change? In what specific ways?
Do you have paid staff or key lay leaders who regularly teach, train, and equip your community of faith about marriage, intimacy, and sexual issues? Do you have scheduled prayer gatherings that focus on marriage? Can I ask, how often do you personally pray/fast for marriages?
Bottom line, do you talk or plan about investing in marriages, more than you actually invest in marriages?
From a practical perspective, have you ever considered what percentage of your church/ministry budget is marriage focused? For example, if you listed the dollar amount that you invest in every area of your church/ministry, where would your financial investment in marriage be—are you satisfied with that amount?
Many churches invest resources in premarital ministry, counseling for troubled marriages, and some churches offer divorce/recovery workshops. But sadly, besides an occasional weekend marriage conference, my experience is very few churches invest in building marriage leadership teams; and developing a strategic plan for ongoing marriage enrichment.
After almost forty years of marriage, I believe investing in marriages is an extremely wise investment.
One that offers an amazing return on investment. Healthy God-centered marriages positively impacts men-women-husbands-wives-families-communities of faith-and future generations in “only-God” ways.
My humble sense is similar to when God provided fresh revelation about slavery; He is beginning to provide fresh marriage revelation. This includes God inviting His followers to return to His original marriage design. Do you ever wonder; is it possible that marriage is under such spiritual and cultural attacks because the enemy understands all the kingdom advancing potential within marriage?
As I look back over sixty years, as a retired fire chief, lay church leader, paid church and para-church ministry leader, pastoral counselor, and marriage minister, I have been with many men and women as they approached the end of their lives. I have sat next to hospital beds, and hospice beds in our home. And as I talked with family-friends-and seasoned church leaders, I cannot recall one time when a person told me they wished they worked more hours, preached more sermons, attended more conferences, built larger ministries, or planted more churches.
Instead, near the end of their lives, they shared with me how—if they were given a life-do-over—they would have said “NO” to many good-things (including church/ministry/religious opportunities); and they would have said “YES” to marriage/family opportunities and invitations. Both men and women near the end of their lives described to me how they would have joyfully invested more time, energy, and resources into their marriage and family.
In closing, to every Christian leader THANK YOU.
Thank you … to church/ministry leaders for your desire to love and serve people; and to advance God’s kingdom.
Thank you … to church/ministry leaders (to every follower of Christ) who place marriage as a high life priority in words and actions; and who continue to purposefully advance in intimacy with God and your spouse.
Thank you … to church/ministry leaders who are champions for marriage.
Thank you … to church/ministry leaders who regularly pray and fast for marriage.
Thank you … to church/ministry leaders who courageously and lovingly push back against unbiblical marriage views.
REAL LIFE Application:
Are you up for a few real-life challenges?
1- Will you invest some time and I.O.T.L. (inquire of the Lord); and then answer the questions in this blog post?
2- If married, will you review your answers with your spouse?
3- Will you lead a staff/team gathering (or retreat) with both married and singles; and review the above questions?
4- Together as a team, would you prayerfully develop and implement a few specific measurable marriage goals and action plans?
5- Will you commit to praying for marriages and families?
6- Schedule some time … and invite the Holy Spirit to speak to you about marriage. Journal any promptings you sense.
Lastly … if you know anyone who you think may benefit from reading this … please forward to them—thanks.
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